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Full-page ad blasts GM CEO Mary Barra as racist

Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

The ad said the group has no interest in meeting with Wahl, who was McDonald’s CMO from 2015 to 2018 and, "severely neglected, minimized and discriminated against" Black-owned media companies during her time in that job, the ad said.

The ad was signed by the following:

Byron Allen: Founder, chairman & CEO of Allen Media Group, a California-based media group that provides video to broadcast and cable TV, mobile devices, multimedia platforms, and the web. Roland Martin: CEO of Nu Vision Media, Inc., a Chicago-based company that produces and distributes Roland S. Martin's daily digital show, #RolandMartinUnfiltered. Todd F. Brown, PMP: Founder, Urban Edge Networks and HBCU League Pass, which covers historically Black colleges and universities. Don Jackson: Founder, chairman and CEO of Central City Productions, a Chicago-based full service television production company. Earl “Butch” Graves Jr.: President and CEO, Black Enterprise, a magazine covering African-American businesses. Ice Cube: BIG3, Cubevision, CWBA. Junior Bridgeman: Ebony Media, the publisher of Ebony Magazine, which covers pop culture and news focusing on the African-American community.

'Meet or quit'

In the ad, the men wrote that it was intended to publicly ask Barra to end the systemic racism and meet with them.

"We are requesting a one hour Zoom meeting with you and several of your key board members and us, the largest Black Owned Media companies in America, so we can resolve this very important issue and have a long-term partnership that’s mutually beneficial for General Motors and the African American consumers," the ad read.

"Mary, we and others firmly believe that if you continue to hold the position that Black Owned Media doesn’t deserve meaningful economic inclusion and we are not worth meeting with, then you should resign effective immediately," it ended.

Allen said the purpose of the ad was to promote transparency into GM's spending given it's a publicly owned company. He would be happy to make the Zoom call public, he said.

“Mary should get on the Zoom call and talk to us and she should pledge that a minimum of 5% of her budget will go to black owned media not to be confused with black targeted media," Allen said. "We can’t deposit her words. There isn’t a bank who would take a deposit of her words.”


When asked if Barra will meet with Allen and the others, Morrissey said, "GM marketing and advertising executives have met often with Mr. Allen and his team and are committed to continuing to have an open dialogue."

Diversity at the top

The ad ran three days after GM named Meg Whitman and Mark Tatum to its board of directors, the company touting in a news release the additions as an expansion of the board's diversity. Whitman is the former CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Tatum is deputy commissioner and COO of the National Basketball Association.

GM now has 13 directors, seven of whom are women, making GM the only automaker with more than half its board filled with women, according to website 50/50 Women on Boards, which tracks the gender composition of corporate boards in the Russell 3000 Index.

Of the women on GM's board, one identifies as Hispanic, one as African American and one as Asian African American, said GM spokesman Jim Cain.

Barra said on Thursday that the diversity of GM's board is a competitive advantage as GM works toward selling all light-duty zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.

But the ad specified that it is seeking Barra's business as Black-owned media, "not minority owned media, because minority includes white women and large corporations like General Motors can hide behind and tout their minority records while continuing not to do business with Black Owned Media companies."

If Barra continues to avoid meeting with the group, Allen said: "Her board should take a good look at somebody who won’t do a Zoom call and the numbers won’t be corrected. I think she’d be ill advised to not meet with us and know us and do business with us. The truth is we’re here to make GM better.”

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